BSc Planning and Real Estate / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Designing Sustainable Futures

Course unit fact file
Unit code PLAN10031
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Recent catastrophic extreme weather events, from hurricanes to major flooding, have highlighted the potential risks posed by climate change. Concern over issues such as flooding, water supply, heat waves, poor air quality and food security are driving innovations in the design of buildings and landscapes, transport, and food systems and manufacturing processes.

Human settlements have impacts on ecosystems far beyond their boundaries, via their supply chains and the impacts of their infrastructure. These exacerbate climate change processes and environmental degradation, including loss of natural habitats and food production capacity. Over recent decades, strategies and actions to respond to these challenges have emerged under the broad umbrella of sustainable development. This will require new approaches in all of the built environmental professions and creative thinking across sectors and professions.


To provide a grounding of understanding in the Earth’s systems and the biosphere

To explore the relation between humankind and the natural environment

To consider a range of sustainability challenges faced by society

To develop skills in applying sustainability principles

To explore the role of different sectors and professionals (including planners, environmental managers, real estate & development professionals, designers, community planners and communities) in moving towards more sustainable futures


Sustainability & civilisation: a primer

The Anthropocene &  climate change

Drivers of change & systems thinking

Navigating towards sustainability

Global challenges & urban futures – developing skills in navigating towards sustainability

Climate change mitigation & the low-carbon economy

Sustainable living  & principles of ecological design

Climate change adaptation & green and blue infrastructure

Citizen engagement & creativity in rethinking the future

Human creativity & change: towards a circular economy



Study Skills workshops:

How to reference

Fundamentals of essay writing

Structuring an essay

Writing reports

Teaching and learning methods

This course is organised to give you a progressive introduction to issues connected with sustainability challenges and responses to them, with sessions throughout the module building on earlier work.

Lectures are supported by associated materials contained on Blackboard, including video clips, web links and articles for wider reading.

Knowledge and understanding

Appreciate the range of issues and agendas connected to sustainability

Recognise the main environmental threats confronting human societies

Demonstrate awareness of key principles and approaches for moving towards sustainable futures

Show an understanding of key policy instruments and the role of different sectors concerned with sustainability and responding to climate change


Intellectual skills

  • Developing writing skills
  • Conducting literature-based research reviews
  • Developing powers of synthesising information and writing a coherent argument
  • Critical analysis and systems thinking

Practical skills

Using a framework of sustainability to assess approaches to the managing the built and natural environment

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Team working

Solving problems

Managing time effectively

Reflective approach to professional development

Assessment methods

Assignment 1 – Field visit and group work assessment of two sites – 25% of marks

Assignment 2 –Individual essay

Length: 2000 words (excluding references)

Weighting 75%



Feedback methods

Substantive, written feedback for all assignments is provided through TurnItIn on Blackboard.

Opportunities for peer learning and formative feedback to students are built in throughout the module. Interactive workshops and the groupwork activity based on the field trip are designed to build skills in applying sustainability principles and critical thinking, as well as to give an opportunity for the tutors to give formative feedback on assignments.

At various intervals throughout the module, interactive learning evaluations will be given, to be completed in class, with discussion of the answers in class. These are designed to give immediate formative feedback on understanding of key concepts of the module, and to provide an ongoing opportunity to review learning. These offer an opportunity for self-assessment of learning and feedback on the learning. They will provide information to the course tutor to help steer the teaching, but will not be used to influence the mark for the module.

The tutor is available to discuss issues in relation to the module at the lectures and workshops and during office hours.

Feedback from students is gathered from informal discussions during workshops and from module review forms at the end of the module. 

Recommended reading

Agyeman, J. (2005) Sustainable communities and the challenge of environmental justice, New York, New York University Press

Barton H., Grant, H., and Guise, R., (2010) Shaping Neighbourhoods (Second Edition), Spon Press, London.

Beatley, T. 2000. Green Urbanism. Island Press, Washington.

Birkeland, Janis... 2008. Positive development: from vicious circles to virtuous cycles through built environment design. London: EARTHSCAN.

Bulkeley, Harriet. 2012. Cities and Climate Change, Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Davoudi, S., Crawford, J., and Mehmood, A. (eds). 2009. Planning for Climate Change: Strategies for Mitigation and Adaptation for Spatial Planners. Earthscan, London.

Hamdi, N., 2010. The placemaker's guide to building community. London : Earthscan

Haughton G and C. Hunter (1994) Sustainable Cities, Jessica Kingsley, London.

Hough, M. 2006. Cities and Natural Process. Routledge, London.

O’Riordan, T. (ed.) (2000) Environmental Science for Environmental Management, Prentice Hall, Harlow, 2nd edition

Pelling M. 2010. Adaptation to Climate Change: From Resilience to Transformation. Taylor and Francis, Hoboken. Available on line through library.

Rosenzweig, C., Solecki, W.D., Hammer, S. A., Mehrohtra, S., (Eds). 2011. Climate Change and Cities First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available to view online at:

Richardson K. et al. 2011. Climate change: global risks, challenges and decisions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available on line through library.

Roaf, Sue; Crichton, David and Nicol., Fergus. 2004. Adapting buildings and cities for climate change : a 21st century survival guide, Oxford: Architectural Press

Rydin, Y. 2010. Governing for Sustainable Urban Development. Earthscan, London.

Sarkissian, W., Hurford, D., Wenman, C. 2010.Creative community planning: transformative engagement methods for working at the edge, London, Earthscan

Wates, N. (2017), 'The community planning handbook: How people can shape their cities, towns and villages in any part of the world', Taylor and Francis,  London

Wheeler, S. M. and Beatley, T. (Editors) (2014) Sustainable Urban Development Reader (Routledge Urban Reader Series) Paperback

Wondolleck, J. M.,Yaffee, S. L..2000. Making Collaboration Work - Lessons from Innovation in Natural Resource Management. Washington D.C. Island Press

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 8
Lectures 20
Seminars 12
Independent study hours
Independent study 160

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Joanne Tippett Unit coordinator

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